Whitley Bay’s Four Year Cup Run Finally Comes to an End

Whitley Bay hadn’t lost an FA Vase game in 1,420 days and twenty-nine ties. Paul Chow had scored in thirteen successive rounds of the competition and won at Wembley three seasons in a row. It was the club’s seventh time in the last sixteen of the Vase and West Auckland’s first. “In terms of the infrastructure of the clubs, it’s definitely David vs Goliath,” West boss Peter Dixon told the fa.com. On the pitch, though, the sides were more even: league-leaders West had already beaten second-placed Bay twice this season and, even without the cup-tied Elliot Gardner and John Campbell, Dixon was still able to field the likes of top-scorer Mattie Moffatt, Alex Francis – who featured in two FA Youth Cup runs during his time at Newcastle United – ex-Hartlepool United and Spennymoor Town forward Michael Rae and Mark Bell, Blyth Spartans’ goalkeeper when they played against Blackburn Rovers in the third round of the FA Cup.

The 1,293 fans – more than double Bay’s average attendance – were expecting a classic. Instead they got a forty-minute delay after a reckless 15th-minute challenge from Lee-Paul Scroggins left Francis with a double break in his leg. “Go on and win it for me,” the midfielder told his teammates as he departed the pitch in an ambulance. Scroggins, deservedly, was shown a straight red card. Francis had a three-hour operation.

In blustery conditions Whitley Bay’s ten men had arguably the better of the rest of the game – “Some of our players reserve their best performances for Vase matches,” Ian Chandler had said before the game. West, superbly marshalled in defence by Darryl Hall, were, as ever, fast and dangerous on the counter, leading to an increasingly nervy afternoon for the Bay faithful. There was only a minute of the ninety left when Moffatt headed in Martin Young’s corner from the right, prompting manic celebrations from the twenty or so West fans behind Kyle Hayes’ goal. Two minutes later Paul Robinson, Hillheads Maradona and three-time winner of the Vase, turned in a Robbie Dale shot to level the scores and all but guarantee a replay. “Bay equalise with the last kick of the game,” came the tweets. Except it wasn’t. In the sixth minute of stoppage time Hayes could only parry a Moffatt header and Rae’s close range finish sparked a celebratory pitch invasion from the bench as well as the stands. “There was stunned silence, a moment of anger and frustration, and then the home supporters cheered their team, who had lost an FA Vase tie for the first time in four seasons” Graham Yapp wrote in his report of the game. West go on to play the winners of the Bournemouth / Billingham Synthonia tie on the first weekend in March. For Whitley Bay, down to fourth in the table after league wins for Spennymoor Town and Sunderland RCA, it could well be the end of an era – but what a glorious one it’s been.

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Easington Are Not Yet Dead

“Easington Fold” the Northern League’s official website announced the evening the bottom-of-the-table side were beaten 14-0 at Team Northumbria. “The news is terribly sad but hardly unexpected,” Northern League chairman Mike Amos stated. “The club has been beset with problems and we’re grateful to the few who have tried to keep them alive. There seems almost no interest in local football in east Durham.”

One man who was extremely interested was Easington manager Andy Colledge, who first heard the news of his club’s demise on an internet forum. “To say I’m gutted would be an understatement,” he wrote. “I thought someone at the club would have let me know what was happening.” After calling Amos to temporarily rescind Easington’s resignation from the league, Colledge helped arrange a public meeting at the town’s Working Men’s Club, where his offer to help with the financial running of the football team was initially rejected by chairman Steve Saigar. “Talking to quite a few of the punters last night made me realise there is still a depth of feeling for the football club. Unfortunately it’s all negative – not towards the players or management…but on the whole – and rightly or wrongly – towards certain individuals involved with the club,” wrote one of those present. “I made some suggestions, but nothing really came out of the meeting,” Colledge told the Northern Echo. “I’m not hopeful for the future.”

Within twenty-four hours everything had changed, Saigar handing control of the club to Colledge and ex-Crook Town assistant Paul Adamson arriving to take charge of a team now eight points below neighbours Horden at the foot of Division Two. “We’re hopeful of a new beginning,” said Colledge, announcing the club would be accepting Spennymoor Town chairman Brad Groves’ offer of a benefit game to be held at the Moors’ Brewery Field stadium. Groves – once an Easington player himself – is donating £500 and all gate and bar receipts from Wednesday night’s game (kick off 7.30 with admission just £2 for adults and £1 to concessions) to his former club. “A fantastic gesture,” says Adamson, “the money will certainly help towards our running costs for the rest of the season.”

If you can make it along on Wednesday, please do; £2 won’t just get you ninety minutes of football, it’ll also help keep a 99-year-old club alive.

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Northern League Talking Points

Whitley Bay dropped to third despite a late equaliser from Lee-Paul Scroggins rescuing a point at Shildon. The Seahorses are one of four Northern League teams to apply for promotion but need to finish in the top two places to be eligible and have played up to six games more than the other teams in the current top five. February’s trip to West Auckland Town and games against Spennymoor, Sunderland RCA and Bedlington Terriers on successive weekends in March will go a long way to deciding whether Bay start next season in the Evostik or Northern League. Sunderland RCA stay top of the league but comfortable wins for West Auckland, Dunston and Spennymoor mean only five points now separate the top five clubs. The pick of next weekend’s fixtures sees Spennymoor at home to seventh-placed Ashington in a repeat of a recent FA Vase tie won by the visiting Colliers.

Results from Division One:

Ashington 2 Tow Law 1
Billingham Town 0 Bedlington 7
Consett 0 West Auckland 3
Dunston 5 Penrith 1
Jarrow Roofing 0 Newton Aycliffe 3
Norton 0 Billingham Synthonia 1
Shildon 1 Whitley Bay 1
South Shields 3 Guisborough 4
Stokesley 0 Spennymoor 3

Below Team Northumbria and North Shields, the top of the Division Two table remains congested with just five points separating West Allotment in 3rd from Hebburn Town in 10th. The recent promotion applications from Wearside League sides Ryhope CW, Redcar and Willington mean the Northern League’s bottom placed team is almost certain to be relegated. Horden’s 2-1 win at Thornaby – their first three points since beating Whickham at the start of December – lifts them five points clear of Easington, though Andy Colledge’s team have four games in hand.

North Shields’ 3-0 win at Easington extends their unbeaten run away from home, the Robins last beaten on their travels at Whickham in September 2010. Team Northumbria’s win keeps them top, with the sides scheduled to meet at North Shields on February 18th.

Darlington RA are offering Darlington FC season ticket holders £1 entry for their remaining home games this season. With Darlo teetering and no guarantee that anything would be salvaged if the club goes bust, there has been internet chatter of a fan-owned team being set up in time for the new season. FA rules would allow its entry into the Evostik or Northern League, though an application to the Teesside League – two steps below Northern League Division Two – or the possibility of a merger with Wearside League side Darlington Cleveland Bridge have also been mentioned depending on what kind of club – if any – is eventually formed.

Division Two results:

Chester-le-Street 2 Esh Winning 2
Crook 1 Alnwick 1
Easington 0 North Shields 3
Gillford Park 4 Birtley 4
Hebburn 2 Morpeth 1
Northallerton 4 Team Northumbria 5
Ryton 2 Washington 1
Seaham Red Star 0 Whitehaven 1
Thornaby 1 Horden 2
West Allotment 3 Brandon 1
Whickham 5 Darlington RA 2

As ever, up to date tables can be seen on the Northern League’s official website.

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New Year in the Northern League

“Five goals, four bookings, two sendings-off and reports of a racist comment made by a player. Not your usual day,” tweeted Newcastle Benfield after their 3-2 home defeat to Guisborough Town. Already 1-0 down when keeper Andy Grainger was sent off, Benfield full-back Carl Paterson saved a Luke Bythway penalty before conceding a second, Bythway eventually finding his range from the edge of the area. Goals from Mick Chilton and Kevin Leighton pulled the home team level before Mikey Roberts hit an 85th minute winner and substitute Ross Peareth was dismissed for a foul two minutes from full time. For many in the crowd, though, the game was marred by allegations of racial abuse directed by a player at Benfield’s Jordan Lartey. Benfield have made a report of the incident; whatever the result, it will hopefully be handled much better than the case involving then-Morpeth Town player-manager Trevor Benjamin.

The three points lift Guisborough further away from the three relegation places, which are now occupied by Stokesley, Tow Law Town and Jarrow Roofing, who lost 7-1 at home to a Billingham Town side who moved up to fourth from bottom by virtue of a vastly superior goal difference. Stokesley – whose only league point to date came in a goalless draw with Norton on August 29th – went down 3-0 at home to Newton Aycliffe. Tow Law lost 2-1 at Marske United, who are looking increasingly comfortable in 13th place, one position below a Bishop Auckland side beaten by a Danny Earl penalty in the fourth minute of injury time at Billingham Synthonia.

With West Auckland not in action and Spennymoor’s game at Consett a late victim of the weather, Whitley Bay edged into second place in the table with a 1-1 draw at fourth-placed Dunston UTS. Andy Bulford’s 15th league goal gave Dunston an early lead but Brian Smith levelled before half-time to leave the Seahorses on 52 points from 27 games – a game ahead and three points behind leaders Sunderland RCA, who survived a second half fightback to win 3-2 at Shildon with Tom Berj – a new signing from Benfield – among the goals. Another player on the move is ex-Newcastle and Torquay forward Marc Walton, who left Consett to join the growing colony of former Magpies at Ashington and promptly scored on his debut as the Colliers won 3-1 at home to Norton. Ashington move into seventh above Bedlington Terriers, who were held 0-0 at South Shields and placed their 20-goal forward Steven Richardson on the transfer list at his own request after the final whistle.

The New Year also brought news that Whitley Bay, Sunderland RCA, Dunston and Bishop Auckland have applied for promotion at the end of the current season. To be eligible clubs need to finish in the top two places and meet the Evostik’s ground grading criteria. The table as it stands suggests all bar Bishops are in with a chance – on the pitch at least.

In Division Two, a double from Lee Scott and Peter Watling’s 24th of the season gave Team Northumbria a 3-2 win at Crook Town and a seven-point cushion over North Shields, who were held 1-1 at home by Alnwick. Darlington RA are two points behind North Shields in third after a 4-0 win at Ryton, while Whitehaven continued their ascent from the bottom of the table by beating Whickham 3-0 away. Liam McBryde hit his fifth hat-trick and 23rd league goal in Hebburn’s 5-2 win over Horden as the South Tynesiders move towards the fringes of the promotion race. That’s exactly where Birtley Town are after recovering from two goals down to grab a point at Thornaby. With tonight’s game between Easington and Esh Winning called off due to floodlight failure, the table currently looks like this.

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Peter Mann and the Spirit of the North

A freelance writer for fanzines, matchday programmes and the BBC’s Non-League website, Peter Mann champions local football through his Spirit of the North site – which he hopes to turn into a magazine covering all levels of the game from the Conference down to the Wearside League and Northern Alliance – and is also the author of a forthcoming history covering Whitley Bay FC in the decade since it rejoined the Northern League.

The Spirit of the North website’s been up and running since the start of the season. How are things going with the magazine itself?

Although it’s been slow since its launch on the opening day of the non-league season, the website has had reasonable, and increasing, figures, none more so than when there are big FA Cup matches in the region such as Grimsby vs Ashington and Blyth Spartans vs Gateshead. It’s the financial climate which has prevented any publications of the magazine. When the prospect of this venture actually came to fruition last summer after several, late night-night discussions between myself and the Whitby Town historian Neil Thaler, I went as far as attending two months’ worth of business workshops. I knew it would be difficult and would take some time and extra perseverance for it to become reality. At the end of the day all it really boils down to is the financial backing, and getting more interest and acknowledgement from the fans themselves.

Would a published magazine follow more or less the same format as the website as it is now?

Obviously there will be statistics such as results, scorers and tables, but there will also be club and league previews, and reviews and stories, interviews with both players and managers past and present and so on. It will be aimed at the supporters of all ages. The original tagline of the magazine was ‘For the Fans, By the Fans’. I thought of it as a way for supporters to get more involved, to have the fans doing match games they attend, with the majority going onto the website and the best ones each month into the magazine itself. If you’ve already seen the website over the past four to five months, you’ll have seen some of the content and style.

I know you’ve also just finished proofreading your book on the history of Whitley Bay. Any word on when it’s likely to be released?

That’s up to Whitley Bay. Hopefully it’ll be sooner rather than later after the extra time it has taken to complete. I just hope it’ll match up to the standards the club’s become accustomed to in recent years.

The book begins with Whitley Bay’s first season back in the Northern League in 2000. Since then only Durham City and Newcastle Blue Star have taken promotion. Do you think it’s time for clubs like Bay and Spennymoor to start thinking of playing at a higher level?

Promotion from the Northern League to the upper echelons of the non-league pyramid is harder now because of the geographical and financial implications placed on clubs from the north-east. This is evident from the demise of Newcastle Blue Star and the problems that Durham City have had in recent years. The likes of Spennymoor Town, Whitley Bay, Dunston UTS, Newcastle Benfield and Bishop Auckland will no doubt make that move as and when it becomes financially viable. Ideally, one or more of those clubs would take promotion. It’d be good for the region as a whole if it happened.

You mentioned financial viability. Do you think there’s an onus on the FA to provide economic support to clubs?

The simple answer is yes. Non-league isn’t exactly flush with cash and taking promotion will mean more expensive journeys on a more regular basis. Trips to places like Preston, Manchester and the like, especially in midweek and on Bank Holidays, is hard enough even before you factor in the full-time jobs that many players have.

Steve Cuggy made the step up in the summer. What do you think went wrong for him at Blyth?

Knowing both Cuggy and (assistant Gavin) Fell, and especially knowing what good blokes they are professionally and personally, it hurt me seeing some of the online comments that were directed at Cuggy. I doubt even he could answer 100% what went wrong there. It certainly didn’t help that numerous players had left the club over the summer, either just before or on his arrival. He had to bring in new players, including some who were some more accustomed to lower level football. Too many changes over a small period aren’t good for any business, let alone a football team. Add to that injuries, bad results and the mounting pressure from the ‘Green Army’. However, he only had six months or so in charge of Blyth. It’s a cliche but Rome wasn’t built in a day. You only have to look at Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. Blyth have high expectations, which is only to be expected with their history. But, without wanting to cause an argument, relegation might be good for them. Given time, they will be alright. I’m sure Cuggy will be too. He will have time to reflect, readjust, and come back into the game. I for one wish him the very best of luck wherever he is.

Overall, how good a year was 2011 for non-league football in the north east?

The obvious highlights of 2011 really come from the success at national level with Darlington winning the FA Trophy and Whitley Bay creating history with their third successive FA Vase win. Both sides fully deserved the plaudits that came their way. On a personal level, two of my best memories came during the first half of the current season. The first came at the charity fundraiser at Birtley Town to support the Japanese team Cobaltore Onagawa – a great day for all concerned and I came away with quite a bit of football memorabilia. The other highlight was attending the Blyth Spartans-Gateshead FA Cup match.

And how about your predictions for 2012? An all-Northern League Vase final? Spennymoor for a third successive title? Gateshead back in the Football League?

Fingers crossed 2012 is already looking like a good year for me personally and professionally. On a footballing level, though, that’s a harder one to call. With Gateshead it will all depend on who they manage to bring in during January (Chandler and Hatch from Darlington?) and keeping hold of Jon Shaw. If they get the next month right, then I can see Bogie getting them promotion. Darlington is impossible to call because of the current situation. Barring late heroics, Blyth Spartans and Whitby Town are more likely candidates for relegation, as sorry as I am to say so. Durham City could make the play offs if they get back to their early season form. As for the Northern League, there are at least six teams in with a realistic chance of winning the championship. If I had to choose one I’d go for West Auckland. Whitley Bay will again win the FA Vase and be promoted as runners-up. In the Second Division then I’d go for either North Shields or Hebburn Town. Oh, and Gateshead for the FA Trophy as well…

For more from Peter, you can follow him on twitter here.

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Boxing Day Matches

Boxing Day started badly at Tow Law Town, staff arriving at the ground to find thieves had broken in overnight and made off with the whole stock of spirits in the social club bar. On the pitch at least there was a happy ending as Ian Davison’s side thrashed his former club Consett 4-1 to move the Lawyers within two points of third bottom Billingham Town and leave Kenny Lindoe’s team – last season’s runners up – in the bottom five with just twenty-two points from their first twenty games. Three goals from former Carlisle United striker Marc Nixon and one from Andy Thompson earned Tow Law’s fifth win of the season, Michael Mackay’s 15th league goal since rejoining Consett from League One Hartlepool providing scant consolation for the Steelmen.  The Lawyers now have sixteen points, fifteen more than Stokesley who stay bottom with a goal difference of -104 after a 3-0 loss at Norton which included a goal from Nathan Mulligan 13 seconds after kick off.

Further up the table there was an even bigger surprise as South Shields travelled to leaders Sunderland RCA and returned with all three points. Close range finishes from Wightman and Fraser put Shields two ahead with just over an hour gone, the visitors holding on despite significant second half pressure and an 88th minute reply from Cuthbertson.

View from the stand at Billingham Synthonia

With second-placed West Auckland Town not in action until January 4th, RCA’s loss gave Whitley Bay the chance to go top with a win at home to Newcastle Benfield. In front of a crowd of 523, Mick Chilton’s 17th league goal of the season put the visitors ahead, and though Robbie Dale levelled before half time Bay couldn’t find the winner in an entertaining second half. The draw leaves Ian Chandler’s side a point behind the leaders in third, four ahead of Dunston UTS – who, like West Auckland, didn’t play yesterday – and defending champions Spennymoor, who won 2-1 at Shildon with goals from Sonny Andrews and Craig Ruddy.

Teenage centre forward Dan Taylor, on loan from Newcastle United, scored twice on his debut as Ashington won the Wansbeck derby 4-2 at Bedlington Terriers. A double from Andrew Johnson had given Ashington a 2-0 half time lead, Steven Richardson and Steven Bowey replying for the home side. Bedlington stay seventh ahead of Ashington on goal difference, though the Colliers’ FA Cup and Vase exploits mean they’ve played two games fewer. Ahead of both are promoted Newton Aycliffe, 2-1 winners at home to Bishop Auckland with goals from Nathan Wilson – an ex-Sunderland reserve who spent the first half of the season at West Auckland Town – and striker Dan Mellanby.

Last season’s other promoted sides shared the points in a 1-1 draw at Guisborough Town watched by almost 400 fans. Ozzy Johnston and Rob Jones traded goals to leave Marske 14th in the table and the home side two places behind, eight points above the third relegation place. That’s a spot currenly occupied by Billingham Town, who lost a competitive Billingham derby 3-1 to Synthonia. Jarrow Roofing stay fourth bottom after a 4-1 defeat at fellow strugglers Penrith. The full table is here.

The teams come out for the Billingham derby.

In Division Two, North Shields closed to within five points of the top with a 2-1 home win over fifth-placed West Allotment, while leaders Team Northumbria slumped to a 2-0 loss at home to struggling Ryton and Crawcrook Albion. A manic game at Esh Winning saw Crook Town go 3-0 and 4-1 ahead, concede an 80th minute equaliser to bring the score to 4-4, hit a fifth goal in the 86th minute and still only leave with a point after Esh scored the tenth and final goal with just two minutes left to play. The point keeps Esh in third, a point above Morpeth Town – 3-0 winners at Alnwick Town – West Allotment and sixth-placed Darlington RA, who beat Thornaby 4-2 at home. Northallerton Town moved up to seventh with a 2-0 win at Seaham Red Star and Easington’s 1-0 win at Horden – their fifth of the season – leaves them just two points adrift at the bottom of a league table which looks like this ahead of tonight’s games at Birtley Town and Whickham. The next full round of fixtures takes place on January 2nd and 3rd, the pick of the matches the relegation face-off between Jarrow Roofing and Billingham Town and Whitley Bay’s trip to Dunston UTS.

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The Northern Alliance Story So Far

Like most of Europe’s other top leagues, the Northern Football Alliance started its winter break after the weekend’s round of fixtures. Non-league football watcher and Percy Main fan Ian Cusack’s take on the season to date:

The Northern Alliance is a bit like La Liga; not for us the vulgar bonhomie of festive football, with handshakes on the terraces and the swapping of hip flasks by rubicund men in freshly unwrapped sweaters. Instead, we withdraw and contemplate on the highlights, or otherwise, of the season so far.

Glenn Roeder is a good man; I liked him as a player for Newcastle and I had no objection to him coming in as boss after the fiasco that was the Souness Administration. While Roeder successfully got Newcastle playing football in the latter half of the 2005/2006 season, including highlights such as Shearer breaking Milburn’s scoring record, the 4-1 annihilation of the Mackems and a 7th place finish that seemed scarcely possible when we’d lain 15th in late January, the job of permanent boss was too big for Roeder. Admittedly he was the second Newcastle manager to win a European trophy, when the 2006 Inter Toto Cup was secured when Auxerre beat Livorno (don’t ask), but league form was atrocious and he resigned in May 2007 after a particularly dire 2-0 home loss to Blackburn, stating “it’s been a bloody awful season,” a sentiment we at Purvis Park can empathise with as the 2011/2012 campaign reaches its midpoint with us having lost 32 players since September; a frightening turnover by any standards. Frankly, when the home game against Harraby Catholic Club was called off on the Friday night before the scheduled 17th December fixture, we all cheered as it meant we’d not be beaten that weekend!

So, who’s hot and who is not in the rest of the Alliance? At the top of the Premier Division, Heaton Stann lead Carlisle City by a point, with Killingworth in 3rd, with Harraby Catholic Club down in 7th but with games in hand always likely to be a threat. At the bottom, Murton are struggling, but so too are Ponteland United; not in a relegation spot yet it’s true, but the reigning champions lost 8-1 at home to Whitley Bay A and 6-1 at Reyrolle in successive weeks. Things look ominous for them.

Pos Club
1. HEATON STAN 14 10 2 2 32
2. CARLISLE CITY 14 10 1 3 31
3. KILLINGWORTH 16 9 2 5 29
4. ASHINGTON 15 7 4 4 25
5. SHANKHOUSE 15 8 1 6 25
6. WHITLEY BAY A 14 7 3 4 24
7. HARRABY 12 8 0 4 24
8. SEATON DEL 14 7 1 6 22
9. BLYTH TOWN 13 7 1 5 22
10. HEBBURN REY 13 6 3 4 21
11. STOCKSFIELD 15 5 2 8 17
12. PERCY MAIN 17 3 5 9 14
13. WALKER CENT 17 4 2 11 14
14. PONTELAND 17 3 3 11 12
15. RUTHERFORD 14 4 2 8 11
16. MURTON 16 3 2 11 11

Down in Division 1, the big story has involved the sad demise of Wark; the Tyne Valley Club were 3rd in the Premier only 2 seasons ago, but they’ve lost players, committee and backing, so they chucked it, as did perennial strugglers Newcastle East End as new manager Tosh Burke was unable to raise a team, echoing the frustrations of previous boss Anth Doyle. The result being, following the disappearance of both Berwick United and Stobswood in pre-season, as well as Peterlee’s defection to the Wearside League, the division is operating with a scarcely credible total of 11 teams. It is unclear whether the Alliance will operate the usual 2 up, 2 down policy, as 16-14-14 is rumoured to be next season’s preferred Alliance structure (currently it is 16-11-16); that would be great for D2 teams wanting to come up and D1 teams not wanting to go down, especially Chemfica whose record at their new Newcastle University Coach Lane base (not the Cochrane Park one) is played 9, lost 9, though they did draw 0-0 with Newcastle University on the adjoining pitch to their own. At the top, Amble United are well set for promotion, as are the non-nonsense Wallsend Town outfit, though the table is lopsided in the number of games teams have played.

Pos Club
1. AMBLE UNITED 13 12 1 0 37
2. WALLSEND TN 14 11 0 3 33
3. WALLINGTON 10 7 1 2 22
4. HEDDON 11 7 1 3 22
5. GOSFORTH BOH 14 6 2 6 20
6. CRAMLINGTON 11 4 2 5 14
7. NEWCASTLE U 8 3 1 4 10
8. CULLERCOATS 10 3 1 6 10
9. MORPETH SC 12 2 1 9 7
10. CHEMFICA 12 1 2 9 5
11. FOREST HALL 11 1 0 10 3

In Division 2, Gosforth based Red House Farm and South Shields outfit Harton & Westoe are well in contention for the top two places, but Wallsend Boys’ Club Seniors are riding high as well. It is good news that all 5 new teams (Alnwick Reserves, Alston, Bedlington Reserves, New Fordley and Whickham Lang Jacks) are holding their own, but spare a thought for poor Cramlington United, who are 8 points adrift at the bottom, having only won a single game; their victims, Northbank travelled all the way over from Carlisle to lose that one!

Pos Club
1. RED HOUSE 15 11 3 1 36
2. HARTON & W 13 8 4 1 28
3. WALLSEND BC 15 9 3 3 27 (3 points deducted)
4. HEXHAM 12 6 5 1 23
5. NORTHBANK 11 8 1 2 22 (3 points deducted)
6. ALNWICK RES 12 7 0 5 21
7. ALSTON 15 6 3 6 21
8. WIDEOPEN 16 5 5 6 20
9. NEW FORDLEY 17 6 2 9 20
10. BEDLINGTON R 13 6 1 6 19
11. LANG JACKS 13 4 3 6 15
12. WILLINGTON Q 12 4 2 6 14
13. N SHIELDS ATH 16 4 1 11 13
14. SEATON BURN 14 3 3 8 12
15. SWALWELL 14 3 3 8 12
16. CRAM’TON U 14 1 1 12 4

On top of their league commitments, there are the Alliance’s 5 cup competitions for teams to compete in: three divisional trophies (Challenge, Combination and Amateur as we look down), the George Dobbins Memorial League Cup for all teams and the Bill Gardner Memorial Trophy, for those who lose in the first round of the League Cup. The League Cup is down to the last 8, with 6 Premier and 2 First Division clubs left in it, with the games scheduled for January (as if!!). In the Challenge Cup, Heaton Stann face Carlisle City in an intriguing semi-final, while Percy Main’s conquerors Harraby must travel to Whitley Bay. In the Challenge Cup, the semis see Gosforth Bohemians host Wallsend Town in a struggle ideal for sociologists everywhere, while Amble United go to Newcastle University. In the Amateur Cup last 4, Whickham Lang Jacks face Bedlington Terriers Reserves and Willington Quay Saints host Harton & Westoe Colliery Welfare, in what must be the game with the two teams who have highest amount of letters in their names in the league. The Bill Gardner Trophy semis haven’t been drawn yet, but the last 4 are: Bedlington Terriers Reserves, Newcastle University, Wallsend Town and Wideopen & District.
As well as the Alliance cups, Premier Division sides from Northumberland are in the NFA Benevolent Bowl, along with Prudhoe Town of the Wearside League (it’s a complicated one to explain). It’s at the last 8 now. The First and Second Division teams join with the Corinthian League, the Tyneside Amateur League and the North Northumberland League to play in the NFA Minor Cup, which is now at the last 16, with 9 Alliance teams left in it. As regards teams in the Durham FA, Hebburn Reyrolle face Brandon British Legion in the semi-final of the County Trophy, while Whickham Lang Jacks fly the Alliance flag in the Durham Minor Trophy second round. In Cumbria, Harraby are in the quarter final of the county cup. If asked I’ll let you know how it all pans out as season’s end!

For more of Ian’s work, check out the superb Payaso del Mierda blog or follow him on twitter here.

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